- The Washington Times - Monday, August 8, 2005

Republican gubernatorial candidate Jerry W. Kilgore yesterday demanded that Fairfax County scrap its plan to grant $400,000 in taxpayer funds to groups that would set up formal centers for day laborers.

Mr. Kilgore said funding such centers gives illegal aliens an incentive to break the law.

“Rewarding illegal behavior is not going to make this situation better; it will only ensure this behavior continues,” he said during a press conference call.

The former state attorney general was responding to a report in The Washington Times on Saturday that said the county had set aside the $400,000 from its $3 billion annual budget to address the problem of day laborers loitering in front of businesses in Culmore, Annandale and Herndon.

“I call upon the government of Fairfax County to reverse course and not use tax dollars of law-abiding citizens to [subsidize] illegal activities,” Mr. Kilgore said.

Mr. Kilgore said businesses should call police when day laborers loiter or cause other problems on their property.

Fairfax County Board of Supervisors Chairman Gerald E. Connolly said the $400,000 was budgeted to help address problems with day laborers. Many residents complain the workers — mostly men — litter, urinate in public and harass women.

“We’re trying to help a situation that virtually is getting untenable,” said Mr. Connolly, who is supporting Democratic gubernatorial candidate Timothy M. Kaine. “We are burdened with managing a very complex and very difficult problem.”

Mr. Connolly, a Democrat, said the federal government has failed to tackle immigration reform and that the county is trying to come up with alternatives to the day-laborer situation.

Mr. Connolly said he was “disheartened” that Mr. Kilgore is focusing on the day-laborer issue instead of on other county challenges such as transportation and affordable housing.

“While I’m glad that he finally is focusing on the needs of Fairfax County, I don’t know that this issue is the one he wants to be begin with,” he said.

Delacey Skinner, a spokeswoman for Mr. Kaine, said Mr. Kilgore’s proposal “doesn’t really address the problem.”

“Day labor centers are utilized by many Virginia workers who are not illegal immigrants and by small businesses that are dependent on that labor,” she said.

Miss Skinner said Mr. Kilgore’s suggestion penalizes Virginia workers and the small businesses who hire them for daily labor.

Mr. Kaine, the lieutenant governor, thinks local government and local businesses should have the freedom to address the day-laborer issue as an economic-development challenge, Miss Skinner said.

Independent candidate H. Russell Potts Jr. called Mr. Kilgore a “racist” and a “bigot” and said the candidate should not inject himself into Fairfax County’s business.

“The Fairfax County Board are duly elected by the people, and every four years they stand for re-election,” said Mr. Potts, a Republican state senator from Winchester. “I’m not going to micromanage them. It should be a local decision.”

As The Times reported Saturday, several groups have applied for the grant.

One of them is Project Hope and Harmony, a group of churches and community leaders trying to open a formal day-laborer center in the town of Herndon.

The county sent out a request for proposals to have groups devise ways to address the challenges presented by day laborers.

Delegate David B. Albo, Fairfax County Republican who joined Mr. Kilgore on the conference call, said organizers must check the immigration status of day laborers.

Mr. Albo this year authored a measure that denies illegals local and state public benefits, including Medicaid. The measure overwhelmingly passed the Republican-controlled legislature, with the support of Mr. Potts and Mr. Kaine.

The law, which takes effect Jan. 1, requires state and local governments to verify the legal presence of an applicant seeking non-emergency public benefits.

Mr. Albo said he thinks Fairfax County would be in violation of this law if the funds are granted.

“It’s perfectly legal now, but on January 1, 2006, if the county is creating employment services and not checking for legal presence, they will be violating the Virginia code,” he said.

He said he is not sure whether a private entity granting public dollars would be held to the same scrutiny.

Mr. Kilgore yesterday endorsed Mr. Albo’s legislative proposal that would give police the authority to detain illegals if they have committed some other crime and transfer them to federal immigration officials.

Mr. Albo said that under the measure, immigration status would not be asked unless the person is suspected of committing a crime.

Mr. Albo said he will sponsor the legislation in the 2006 General Assembly session, if he is re-elected in November.

Miss Skinner said police in Virginia already are tasked with protecting residents and should not be burdened with a job that the federal government is supposed to do.

Mr. Connolly said the proposal is an “unfunded mandate” that would hurt local taxpayers. He said Fairfax County police receive 300,000 service calls per year and “doesn’t have the resources to deport people.”

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